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Pin-ups, photographers, painters, and models collide in mid-century Los Angeles.
Pin-ups, photographers, painters, and models collide in mid-century Los Angeles.
Pin-ups, photographers, painters, and models collide in mid-century Los Angeles.
294 backers pledged $12,785 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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California Four O'Clock: A novel about the lore of pin-ups

$12,785

294

We've added some stretch goals:

  • $12kDONE! every book personalized and inscribed
  • $13k — Existing prints are upgraded from screen-printing to letterpress, printed at Little Trees Studio in Los Angeles, and a letterpress bonus freebie with every book ordered.
  • $15k — An ebook for every backer!
  • $18k — a two-color letterpress broadside for all print-copy backers, with new custom art from Vicki Nerino, and a quote from the book, printed at Little Trees Studio.

Also, check out the new big-backer items, including custom art from Vicki Nerino of you, or someone you love, as a pin-up!

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Hi! Thanks for looking. California Four O'Clock is a novel about pin-ups set in 1955. I'm bringing it to Kickstarter to produce a printed special edition in small quantity.

Join backers like novelists Maria Semple, Nicola Griffith, and Robin Sloan; inimitable journalists like John Gruber, and former books editor of The Stranger Paul Constant; as well as the most brilliant ad man of the internet age, Adam Lisagor.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT?

California Four O'Clock is a family drama set in the world of the pin-up. It's about the relationships with the people closest to us — how we build them up, and how we tear them down. It's about photographers, painters, models, and the people who surround them.

It's about women and gender roles in the mid-century, and the types of women who bucked those roles. About queer identity in a time where the closet was nearly the only option. About the changing roles of painting and photography, at a time when pin-up painters were dying off, and glamour photographers were taking off. About California's car culture, and restaurant scene, and Los Angeles all ready for its transformation into the freeway capitol of the world.

Delores' Hasselblad, by Vicki Nerino
Delores' Hasselblad, by Vicki Nerino

YEAH, BUT WHAT'S THE PLOT?

It's 1955. Delores Sarjeant has fallen in love with a model she's never met. She's only seen her in paintings. Her father is the artist, the renowned pin-up painter Gael Sarjeant. When Delores' own life in New York gets a little stale, she leaves her lover with their posh Park Avenue life, and goes back to Los Angeles to find Sammi, the model. 

Find her she does. Together, they have undeniable kinetic energy. Delores finds just the way to bring a flush to Sammi's cheek before turning the camera on her. 

But her father isn't happy about giving up his model, and Delores' mother is cagey, picky, and seems to have a secret to keep. Delores gets a break, getting an offer to sell her photos to Playboy. Her father won't be happy about that. And why wasn't Sammi ditching that asshole of a fiancée, now that Delores had come into town and seduced her?

As things get harder for Delores she wonders why she ever left New York. Her lover, the socialite Cora Fournier, would have her back in a minute. Does she want to forge her own life on her own terms, risking alienation from her family, or return to the safety of a sure thing? 

1955 Chevrolet 210, by Vicki Nerino
1955 Chevrolet 210, by Vicki Nerino

CAN I GET A SAMPLE?

You bet, I've put two excerpts online just for you:

Here's the cover, and a mockup of one of the spreads:

Front Cover!
Front Cover!
Sample spread from Chapter I
Sample spread from Chapter I

WHY PIN-UPS?

I wrote about that on Medium. Here's a quick clip from that article:

"Three woman, all from different walks of life, all taking part of a tradition that used to be about selling magazines to men. What is it that all three of these women had in common? They all were taking ownership of a modern fact: the pin-up now belongs to women."

WHY KICKSTARTER?

I love Kickstarter. I've backed over 50 projects here (my very first was Robin Sloan's novella). I can't think of a better way to bring my work to you. 

Something about this book spoke to doing a small private edition to a select group of people. The book is intimate, and I wanted its launch to be that way, too. 

I've also been incredibly inspired by the people here. Like Jack Cheng's novel These Days, who is my direct inspiration for this project. Like Andy Baio and Andy McMillan's XOXO Festival, whose talks and attendees gave me the gumption to do this myself. Like Anita Sarkissian's Tropes Vs. Women, who handled her success (and abusers) with admirable and inspirational focus. Like Pablo Garcia & Golan Levin's NeoLucida, which was both an art device and an art history lesson from two fascinating professors.

WHAT YOU'RE BUYING

If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right. This special edition features illustrations from one of my favorite artists, Vicki Nerino. She's delivered the four you see here, and is signed on to do at least sixteen more, if the project is successful. 

The beautiful lettering on the cover is by the sublimely talented Scott Boms. Doing this Kickstarter gives me the privilege to work with artists I love and admire. 

The book will be printed in the United States, using quality materials. It's going to feel nice in the hand. 

Besides the reward you pick, you'll get weekly updates from me, featuring the latest illustrations from Vicki, and an update about where we are in the production process. 

The makeup vanity in her father's painting studio, by Vicki Nerino
The makeup vanity in her father's painting studio, by Vicki Nerino

WHY $10,500?

Simple math. I need to make a minimum print run of 500 books. Unlike print-on-demand, true high-quality offset printing is too expensive per-unit to be feasible at lower quantities. If I can sell 300 books, at $35 ($30 + $5 shipping), that's $10,500, enough to do the run of 500. I'll have a few extra copies to help with promotion, give to reviewers, and offer at retail bookstores for sale.

Baked into the price of each book are my expenses: editing, proofing, artwork, and of course printing. I've done the writing, designing, and production myself, so the only cost there is my time. If I sell more than 500 books, I start to turn a modest profit (below that is essentially break-even).

WHERE ARE YOU IN THE PRODUCTION PROCESS?

Good question! The book is fully written (a five year, many-draft process), and is undergoing its final edit right now. After that, I'll have it copy-edited, flow the text into the layout, and do pre-production. Then off to the printer!

Vicki has the cover and four illustrations done. She'll do the rest with me as we go. You'll get to see it all happen live through updates. I love watching things come together on the projects I've backed. You'll get a peek inside what my process is too.

NOT WITHOUT YOU

Maybe it goes without saying, but a writer is nothing without an audience. I made my video in my writing studio in Downtown Seattle, where I wrote every word of this book. I could spend my days there happily creating stories. But unless they go out into the world, those stories are nothing. A novel only matters when you create your version of it in your head as you read. 

In helping me here, you're helping me to achieve that goal, launch my writing career. I'm so excited you're considering joining me on this adventure. Please consider backing, and let's travel together back to the mid-century, and meet some interesting characters. 

DESIGN NERDERY

Maybe I should save it for the colophon, but: the book is being typeset in Okay Type's Harriet. I've already mentioned (and you've already seen) Scott Boms' masterful title lettering, and Vicki's illustration. 

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Video Credits: The music is "Delores' Theme", by yours truly, composed in Reason and edited in Logic Pro. 

Uh-oh. Spilt wine. Things must go badly, by Vicki Nerino
Uh-oh. Spilt wine. Things must go badly, by Vicki Nerino

Risks and challenges

Editing a novel is a tricky undertaking. We want to make sure we're making the highest possible quality story to deliver to you. But, the book has already gone through developmental rounds, and is well into addressing the final minor issues, before a final copy edit of the finished manuscript.

After that, we'll move onto production. I've designed printed books before, so know the kind of surprises that come along during production. We've gotten bids and have picked a printer who is aware of our timeline. Vicki will be making a new image every week as we go.

There could be complications with that schedule, or printing. The most likely scenario is that unforeseen delays stop the book from shipping on time. I'll do a regular updates to keep everybody in the loop about what's happening, and where we are in the production schedule. If any events come up, you'll know about them early.

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Support this project

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $1 or more About $1.00

    HEY I LOVE PIN-UPS / I WISH YOU HAD AN EBOOK! level - This is the cheer-me-along, here's a bit of cash level. You'll get updates from the campaign, and I'll keep in touch afterwards, as well.

    If you want an ebook, add a few pennies to the pledge so that I can gauge interest.

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    Pledge $30 or more About $30

    HARDBACK - Beautifully designed and printed in the USA. Illustrated by Vicki Nerino, and designed by Martin.

    (+$5 shipping US, +$25 Intl)

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    Pledge $60 or more About $60

    HARDBACK - BUY TWO AND U.S. SHIPPING IS ON ME- Beautifully designed and printed in the USA. Illustrated by Vicki Nerino, and designed by Martin.

    Get two and save a few bucks. One for you, one for a friend you think would dig it. Or, if you'd prefer, I'll donate the extra copy.

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    Pledge $70 or more About $70

    HARDBACK AND PRINT SET - Beautifully designed and printed in the USA. Illustrated by Vicki Nerino, and designed by Martin, PLUS a set of four signed prints.

    (+$5 shipping US, +$25 Intl)

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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    CASE BOUND SPECIAL EDITION HARDBACK AND PRINT SET - Beautifully designed and printed in the USA. Illustrated by Vicki Nerino, and designed by Martin, PLUS a set of four signed prints, in a hand-made slipcase wrapped in the same book clock as the edition, debossed with the book's logo.

    (+$5 shipping US, +$25 Intl)

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Funding period

- (29 days)